I have banged on a lot in this blog about the difficulties involved in importing plants in NZ. Most all of which stem from the HSNO (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act) of 1996 in combination with the Biosecurity Act of 1993.
These two pieces of probably well intentioned legislation had (I believe) the unforeseen consequence of killing off any possibility that NZ would cement its place as a powerhouse of horticultural innovation and production.
Prior to these pieces of legislation and the Government of the time turning scientific research funding into a bidding process, we had a wonderful innovative base of scientists and talented artisans who were able to access the raw building block plant material for new breeding programs from around the world.
The recent growth in NZ exports in apples, kiwifruit and to a lesser extent berry crops has largely come from this work extending back to the 1950's and 60's.
There is a growing realization, fuelled by NZPPI's persistence, that the 'tank' is looking rather empty, in terms of new NZ horticultural crops.
Instead we are trying (and it's not a fast process) to import crops bred overseas by breeders for conditions and characteristics that are important to them and the market they are breeding for.
By the time we import these potential new lines into NZ, a considerable investment has been made in quarantine time and regulation compliance, BEFORE they have even been tested in our growing conditions.
So there is considerable pressure on these imported cultivars to perform and as we who deal with trialing plants sourced from even as close as the eastern seaboard of Australia have discovered, there are often some surprises in store regarding how very differently plants behave when you bring them to NZ (and vice versa). Sadly it is not always a good story.
The Blueberry folk are finding out right now that not all is sunshine and roses when it comes to berry production on plants that have been bred in certain conditions, and do not equate with their new production patterns and disease profiles in NZ. The good thing is that there is a growing awareness that maybe, just maybe, we chucked the baby out with the bathwater when those two pieces of legislation were so eagerly imposed on us.
Let's hope that we see some major change around these regulations as they are applied to plant material.
Malcolm & the Lyndale Team